Scotland

UK strikes: what does a Syrian living in Scotland think?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Homs in central Syria

As British war planes drop their first bombs over Syria, a Syrian man living in Scotland has given his views on the UK's role in the conflict. Manhal Alnasser spoke to BBC Scotland about his opinion on the UK government's actions.

He thinks that bombing will not prevent terror attacks and could even increase support for the Islamic State group. The "main problem" for Syrians is the Assad regime, he said.

Mr Alnasser is concerned that if the so-called Islamic State were left as the only group fighting Assad, it could "backfire", and "encourage rebels" to join up - the group could even be seen as "heroes" for fighting against the Assad regime.

"The Russians are targeting rebel areas in the country, which will leave ISIS as the main group fighting against the Syrian regime", he said.

"For Syrians, the main problem at the moment is the regime."

Not welcome

Mr Alnasser still has family, including three sisters, living in Syria, who are on the outskirts of the war-torn city of Homs.

He said that he was "lost for words" to describe the situation they were living in.

"It's like going back in time 100 years - there's no electricity, you have to grow your own food, there's no school, there's no education and you live in fear every day for your life.

"You just wake up every morning and you don't know if you're going to make it throughout the night or not. "

Image copyright PA
Image caption An RAF Typhoon taking off from Lossiemouth

He said they did not want to leave Syria because they do not think they would be "welcomed" anywhere.

Relatives had been watching the news and hearing what has been happening to those trying to leave Syria.

Mr Alnasser said "I heard the other day that in Greece they're gathering all the bodies washed ashore and keeping them in a large container waiting to be buried.

He said his family "would rather stay in Homs and die in our own land than go somewhere else and be humiliated".

Backfire

Mr Alnasser said he thought air strikes "are going to backfire" because whatever rebels are left will see the group that calls itself ISIS as "their only hope for fighting against the regime" and that it would "encourage more Syrians to join".

At the moment, he said, Syrians "are fighting on two fronts - they are fighting the Syrian regime and they're also fighting ISIS, but now the Russians are bombing the rebel held areas it is going to leave ISIS as the only player against the regime."

He said that many of the rebels see the Assad regime as responsible for the deaths of thousands of Syrians and "destroying the country completely".

Mr Alnasser said he did not believe that bombing Syria would prevent further terror attacks, as the US had been bombing IS in Syria for some time but that it had not prevented the attacks in Paris.

"I really doubt that the involvement of the UK will make any difference," he said.

But Andrew Dorman, professor of international security at Kings College, Oxford, said that UK bombings would not make "a great deal of difference" to the levels of bombing that would take place - he said the actions were more symbolic in showing support for the French and the other coalition partners.

He warned that the end to the IS group would "not be done purely by military means", but the goal of the bombing was to disrupt and degrade the group's capability.

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